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Nationalism

Nationalism on its own is a dangerous force, but it has led to a number of wonderful bits of music. This edition of Exploring Music examines what happens when a powerful pride in national identity weasels its way into a composer's head.

 
Program 1

We begin with a thundering Polonaise in A No. 1, "Military", the work of Polish composer Chopin and a sort of unofficial anthem during the Second World War. Next are the second and third of Chopin's Mazurkas, a more mysterious set of quintessentially-sounding Polish tunes. Next we move to the southwest, to Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic, and we hear two Furiants of Smetana--one from Czech Dances, one from The Bartered Bride. Next is Dvorák trying his hand at the same dance form as part of Slavonic Dances. We hear Nos. 8 and 10. Next, we stay Czech, but turn to Moravia to hear from Janácek. This piece, Taras Bulba, was written in the hopes that the Russians would defat the Germans, whom they were at war with at the time, so that they would then advance and drive the Austrians out of Moravia. We hear a large excerpt from this piece. Finally, we close out the segment by visiting Romania and hearing Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. Compared to the other pieces we have heard in this segment, this one is relievedly cheerful.

Chopin: Polonaise in A, Op. 40 No. 1, Military
Rubinstein, p.
RCA 5615
4:06
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Chopin: Mazurkas Op. 17 No. 2 & Op. 33 No. 3
Ohlsson, p.
Arab 6730
3:42
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Smetana: Czech Dances- Furiant
Firkusny, p.
EMI 66069
5:02
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Smetana: Furiant fr. The Bartered Bride
Cleveland Orchestra/Szell
CBS 36716
2:09
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Dvorák: Slavonic Dances Op. 46 No. 8 & Op. 72 No. 10
Vienna Phil/Reiner
Lon 417696
11:31
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Janácek: Taras Bulba (excerpt)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Davis
Sony 62404
8:34
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Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
London Symphony Orchesta/Previn
EMI 2127
11:53
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Program 2

In this segment, we look at Hungary in particular, but we start with a pair of very German sounding pieces. After a short excerpt from Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor, we then listen to Liszt's quite popular Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. This demonstrates just how enthralling Hungarian music can be, even if it isn't being utilized by a Hungarian native. But Hungary has produced its fair share of composers, so we give some of them a listen as well, starting with Dohnányi's Ruralia Hungarica. This is a piece based on Hungarian folk songs, something common not only in what we will hear in this segment but also in nationalistic music as a whole, as composers travel throughout the countryside in order to gain a sense of what the real national identity is as opposed to what's going on at a conservatory. The same sort of idea was explored by Bartók, and we hear Nos. 1, 2, and 5 of his Hungarian Sketches, which arguably has a stronger Hungarian flavor than what we heard of Ruralia Hungarica. We then hear a sprightly Kodály piece, Dances of Galanta, and then close out the segment with a last little bit of Ruralia Hungarica.

Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor
Cincinnati/Kunzel
1:38
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Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
CBS 39450
10:46
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Dohnányi: Ruralia Hungarica, I
West Australian Symphony/Mester
ABC 438
8:25
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Bartók: Hungarian Sketches Nos. 1, 2 & 5
CSO/Solti
Lon 443444
9:01
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Kodály: Dances of Galanta
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
Sony 62404
15:16
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Dohnányi: Ruralia Hungarica, No. 6
Heifitz, v.; Sandor, p.
Sony 09026-61733
4:32
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Program 3

In this segment, we find ourselves in France, and since there is a vast wealth of French composers, we're going to focus in on just three of them that aren't heard as much as some others. We start with Bizet's L'alesienne, hearing a few pieces of it at a time. We then move onto Canteloube, with several excerpts from Songs of the Auvergne. We then close out with a delightful wind quintet by Milhaud: La cheminée du roi René.

Bizet: L’arlesienne (excerpts)
Berlin Phil/Karajan
DG 415106
6:05, :26, 13:08
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Canteloube: Songs of the Auvergne (excerpts)
English Chamber Orchestra/Tate; Te Kanawa, ms.
Lon 444995
17:25
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Milhaud: La cheminée du roi René
Prague Wind Quintet
Supraphon 110372
12:15
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Program 4

This segment begins with an arrangement of the folk tune "Folkdance from the Hills" by Grieg, a Norwegian composer who, like other composers we have previously heard, composed pieces based on folk songs and fiddle tunes from Norwegian towns. His interest in folky material was cultivated by a discovery of his heritage; Grieg, like many middle-class Norwegians, spoke Danish growing up, since Norwegian was a poor-person's language. We hear more examples of his journey into his heritage by taking a glance through a few excerpts from his Lyric Pieces, all of which evoke various moods and settings throughout Norwegian tradition. We finish up Grieg with a lovely song written for his wife, "The Singing". Next we move down south to Denmark, to hear music of Nielsen. We start with his Symphony No. 3, second movement, a wonderfully calm piece, and then more to his Symphony No. 4, fourth movement, a much more dramatic piece. We finish the segment off in Finland, with Sibelius, who wrote pieces that defined the Finnish struggle for independence and identity. We hear the first part of his Lenninkäinen Legends.

 

Trad., arr. Grieg: Folkdance from the Hills
Buen, Hardinger Fiddle
Simax 1040
1:09
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Grieg: Lyric Pieces (excerpts)
Andsnes, p.
EMI 57296
2:19, 2:51, 3:43, 1:44
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Grieg: The Singing
Hirsti, s.; Jansen, p.
Aurora 1930
3:23
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Nielsen: Symphony No. 3, II
Royal Danish Orchestra/Berglund
RCA 60427
8:19
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Nielsen: Symphony No. 4, IV
Swedish Radio Symphony/Salonen
CBS 42093
8:35
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Sibelius: Lenninkäinen Legends, I
LA Phil/Salonen
Sony 48067
16:13
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Program 5

The segment starts, rather suddenly, in Russia, with Mussorgsky's Prelude to Kohvanshina, a piece that depicts the sunrise over the Kremlin. Much like a number of Mussorgsky's work, Kohvanshina was left unfinished by Mussorgsky and had to be completed by his friend, Rimsky-Korsakov. But Rimsky-Korsakov had a number of great works of his own, and we hear a big one: the Russian Easter Overture. Next, we move clear to the other side of Europe and hear some British music, first from Vaughan Williams. Despite studying with the French composer Ravel, Vaughan Williams was encouraged to have his own sound, and so he did. We hear his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, which he composed shortly after returning from France. Next is a quirky collection of folk songs put together by Grainger for wind band, the Lincolnshire Posey. Grainger, an Australian, walked around the region of Lincolnshire carrying an elaborate recording machine and collecting folk songs. He would then write them as he heard them, keeping odd time changes from how the songs were performed. Before we end the program, we hear a short Vaughan Williams tune: "The Could Capp'd Towers", from Three Shakespeare Songs.

 

Mussorgsky: Prelude to Kohvanshina
LSO/Solti
Lon 417689
4:57
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Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
New York Phil/Temirkanov
RCA 09026-61173
16:05
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Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
DG 469274
14:05
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Grainger: Lincolnshire Posey
Eastman Wind Ensemble/Fennell
Mer 432754
14:08
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Vaughan Williams: “The Could Capp’d Towers” fr. Three Shakespeare Songs
Finzi Singers/Spicer
Chandos 9425
2:10
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The Exploring Music streaming website is made possible by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and Susan & Richard Kiphart.
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